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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Developer Harlan Douglass seeks to nullify plea deal for former assistant who stole jewelry, cash

UPDATED: Wed., May 22, 2019, 1:08 p.m.

Developer Harlan Douglass leaves a Spokane County courtroom after a hearing on an assault charge on April 16, 2015. His former personal assistant, Bryan J. Reilly, has been sentenced to two days in jail and ordered to pay more than $38,000 in restitution for stealing from Douglass. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Developer Harlan Douglass leaves a Spokane County courtroom after a hearing on an assault charge on April 16, 2015. His former personal assistant, Bryan J. Reilly, has been sentenced to two days in jail and ordered to pay more than $38,000 in restitution for stealing from Douglass. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

One of Spokane County’s richest men is asking a judge to throw out a plea deal and order stiffer punishment for a former assistant accused of stealing jewelry, watches and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

A lawyer for real estate developer Harlan Douglass filed a motion this month in Spokane County Superior Court arguing prosecutors were too lenient on Bryan J. Reilly, who has known Douglass from a young age and worked as his personal assistant until 2015.

Reilly was identified as a suspect that year after roughly $700,000 was taken from Douglass’ home in Colbert, along with Rolex watches, gold rings, and gold and silver bullion.

Reilly, now 27, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft on May 3 after prosecutors agreed to drop charges of possessing and trafficking in stolen property. His sentencing, which would put an end to years of litigation, is scheduled for Thursday.

Reilly, who has no prior felonies on his record, likely will face no jail time. But he has agreed to pay Douglass more than $38,000 in restitution.

That’s on top of roughly $1 million Reilly was ordered to pay when Douglass won a civil lawsuit against him in May 2018.

Reilly’s attorney, Derek Reid, called it “a pretty standard plea agreement” given the charges and his client’s lack of criminal history. He said Reilly has accepted responsibility for his actions and wants to move on.

But in his motion, Douglass’ attorney, Steven Hassing, called it “an obscenely unfair plea agreement calling for grossly inadequate restitution” and urged Judge John Cooney to toss out the deal so a harsher one can be negotiated. Cooney also presided over Reilly’s civil trial.

Hassing argued restitution ought to be more than $196,000. He wrote that Reilly “clearly deserves and should serve time in jail. He has to. His crimes were numerous and serious. They were all crimes violating the Douglass’ home where Reilly was akin to a fiduciary.”

Reid and the deputy prosecutor on the case, Mark Lindsey, said the motion is an unusual intervention by a victim in a criminal case.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lindsey said.

Hassing also contended that Lindsey failed to properly communicate with Douglass about the plea deal. In an interview, Hassing said the agreement was reached “secretly, behind Harlan’s back, without any input at all.”

Reilly originally faced two criminal charges, which grew to six counts after Lindsey and another prosecutor observed Reilly’s civil trial.

“These prosecutors have known forever that Harlan didn’t want anything less than all six of these felonies charged,” Hassing said. “It would have been an easy conviction on all counts, so it doesn’t make any sense that they gave him a plea deal.”

Lindsey said ethical rules prohibit him from discussing details of the case until after Reilly’s sentencing. But he said prosecutors devoted a lot of time to the case, and Douglass was more involved in the process than the average victim.

Reid, meanwhile, said he plans to file a brief objecting to Hassing’s motion. It’s unclear how Cooney will address the matter during Thursday’s hearing, if at all.

“Frankly, the taxpayers of Washington and Spokane are not required to prosecute to whatever extent Mr. Douglass and Mr. Hassing want,” he said.

Douglass, 81, also is suing the former chief executive of his property management company, Rachel Murphy, alleging she embezzled money by falsifying receipts and other financial records. Murphy worked for Douglass Properties from 1997 until she was fired in June 2017. Hassing has said she was Douglass’ “No. 1 trusted employee.”

Douglass took a deal of his own in 2016, pleading guilty to fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, for slapping and shoving an opposing lawyer during a civil lawsuit. He was given credit for one day in jail and had the remaining 363 days of his sentence suspended. He also was ordered to pay $700 in court fees.

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